eeny, meny, miny…mangosteen

I know, I know, I have been a total blog slacker. But seriously, I am like a kid in a candy store here and sitting down to write a blog post has been sidetracked by a long list of adventures and outings in the last few weeks. This having a car and being able to drive thing does not suck in a city like this.

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Even better news is that I’ve found someone (several someones, in fact) to adventure and outing with me! Hooray! So since we returned from the U.K. here is what I’ve been up to:

I painted C’s room. She wanted a pink “princess-y” room and she got it! There are no Home Depots here so I asked our gardener if he could take me to find some paint. He took me to a Marché – basically hundreds of stalls selling everything from fruits and vegetables to, you guessed it, paint. I saw my first “bush” meat (though I averted my eyes so quickly from the head on the table next to the meat that it could have been just about anything and not necessarily something from the bush…), we bought a spade for the garden, and we found a paint stall where we bargained for a gallon of paint and then argued back and forth to get the color right.

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Not my photo – but a good idea of what a Marché is like

Like Home Depot every can of paint at the stall starts out white. But, unlike the HD, there is no “formula” or machine to measure the amount of color that needs to be added to the white to get the right shade of, say, pink. So I also only had one shot to get the right amount. There would be no going back and saying “Hey, could you make me another gallon of ‘C’s Room Pink'” cause you would never, ever be able to get a match.

The tin roof of the stall had hand wiped “swatches” of colors that I was able to use as a starting point. I showed them a light pink and then they started adding red paint to the white and stirring it. I have heard that when you buy a 4 gallon can they use their arms to stir, but the woman I bought from used a stick, so it wasn’t that exciting. It was $20 for a gallon. Not too bad as paint goes.

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I got to work painting and I bought a border for the room as well (though I had to order more so that part is not finished yet…) and I’m pretty pleased with the results.

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Before

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After (though still have some border to add…)

I also went with the gardner, Blanchard, to buy rocks. We have a little area in our back yard that is not paved and is too shady to grow grass, so it is, naturally, Miller’s favorite place to hang out. The result is that if it rains at all the dog tracks muddy paws all over our tile floor house. So Blanchard and I figured that if we put rocks in that area Miller will be walking on rocks, not mud, and everyone (except Miller…) will be happy.

We had to drive slightly out of Kinshasa – on the same road we took to Zongo – to buy the rocks from a family by the side of the road. They gather these rocks out of the Congo River and then sell them. There are tiny rocks all the way to giant boulders – all for sale – which they keep in neat piles. They use a bucket to measure the rocks you are buying, and they are priced by the bucket. So the small-ish rocks we bought were 3000 CF (about $3.25) for a bucket. I’ll write more about the family one day, but for today this is just about the rocks. It was fascinating and made me (again) so glad that I am able to speak French as it allowed me to talk with one of the little girls out there and ask questions about what kind of fish they get out of the river. Unfortunately, I don’t speak Lingala (the local language) and the man I asked only knew the names of the fish in Lingala, not French. But, he could tell me in French that they are delicious.

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I also discovered an art gallery called Symphonie Des Arts which doubles as a ballet/workout studio. The gallery has some works by some amazing local artists and I have had a hard time not spending a lot of money there. I signed C up for ballet and she now goes twice a week to study with Mme. Nicola. She goes back and forth between loving and hating it (mostly, I think, because Mme Nicola does not take any of C’s attitude…) but she has to keep doing it because I love how cute she looks in her ballet outfit!

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Not sure if she is loving or hating it here…

There are also all these amazing birds at Symphonie – macaws, African parrots, fancy chickens and this guy – no idea what he is, but he’s gorgeous!

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Rainy season has started, but luckily that does not mean that it rains all the time (as it does in some African countries). It means that the majority of the days are sunny and bright (and HOT) and then we have these truly wicked thunderstorms. And then we jump in the puddles, naturally.

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My adventure-mate and I have also been systematically checking out the duty free stores around town where diplomats are allowed to shop. We still have a couple of others to check out, but we have found some good bargains…

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$35…pretty sure I paid $60 in the U.S.

Finally, we have discovered a new fruit. There are rumors that these can be found in California, but we have never seen one anywhere before. They are called mangosteen, though they are nothing at all like a mango. It is not really possible to describe the taste – sweet, but not too sweet ,and delicious – but oddly I always think of crawfish when I’m eating them. Why? Because it takes a lot of effort to get into them and the joy of eating the result is way too fleeting before you have to start on another one!

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An unopened mangosteen

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A fleeting moment of deliciousness…

I can’t write more today because we’re headed out to the Embassy Trunk or Treat event, then B and I are going to Oktoberfest (apparently the party of the year and also, bizarrely, at Symphonie Des Arts) and tomorrow we’re finally going to find Curious George’s friends and relatives and visit the Bonobos (the most recently discovered great ape which is only found in Congo!)

It’s a busy weekend here in Kinshasa folks and who knows what next week will bring.

I, for one, can’t wait to find out.